Having just had family visiting from UK we needed to find them some big game without travelling all the way to the Kruger or Zululand. We’d heard about a private “Big Five” Game Reserve just outside Ladysmith. We sincerely hoped that the big cats weren’t in small camps inside the main park as they are in the Lion Park at Ashburton and there was only one way to find out. Having decided that what we would save in time and travelling costs we could put towards the seemingly expensive price tag we went ahead and booked three nights at Lions Rock Private Game Lodge within the Nambiti Private Game Reserve. What a lovely time we had; worth every penny, and just up the road.
The park is rolling, rugged, grassland with bushy gorges, a river and plenty of dams. The area of open plains reminded us of the Masai Mara in Kenya with a variety of plains game keeping a careful look out for the lions and cheetah that, after all, have to eat. In a wetland area we saw pairs of blue cranes, crowned cranes and secretary birds and many other lovely birds including a first for us, a golden bishop.
On our first evening game drive our ranger took us to find the elephants. We could hear them trumpeting but they were in thick bush so we didn’t see them. We all wondered what they were making so much noise about and our ranger said that he had previously heard them making a big fuss when a new baby was born. Two days later we found the elephants with several calves of varying sizes including one brand new one. We also had the thrill of following two lionesses moving at a steady trot on some mission or other. We encountered the buffalo on several occasions, saw rhino and spent a long time following a coalition of three young male cheetahs striding through the waving yellow grass, finally climbing up a fallen tree to take a good look at the plains beyond.
These animals have ten thousand hectares to roam in, living, breeding and hunting as nature intended, in the wild. No cages for them, no human contact and definitely no circus tricks. The National Council of SPCAs has always advocated that “Wild Animals Belong in the Wild” and has just launched a campaign against wild animals performing in circuses. The picture of a cute lion cub walking on a collar and lead begs the question “What is to become of that cub in the years ahead?”
The NSPCA Campaign, “Celebrate the Wildness of Wild Animals”, encourages people not to support circuses which have wild animal acts. Wild animals should not be subjected to the conditions of circus life, which involve forced transport, human handling, noise, trailer movement, confinement and crowds of people. “We do not believe that performing inappropriate and unnatural tricks in the name of entertainment fosters respect for wild animals. Wild animals belong in the wild! We invite you to join the many famous celebrities and individuals who have joined forces with us and signed the pledge “NOT TO SUPPORT WILD ANIMAL ACTS IN CIRCUSES” on the NSPCA website www.nspca.co.za”.
Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA